Posted on

The New Sony PMW-F3

Sony’s most anticipated camera is finally just around the corner with delivery expected mid-February.  The F3 is a dream camera for most in that it offers a large sensor like DSLR’s but with the feature sets and ergonomics of a professional HD camera.  The F3 features a Super 35mm-sized sensor and a PL mount adapter.  On the surface, the camera appears to be no more than an EX1R with a large sensor, but, under the covers, it’s actually so much more.  Its numerous features will mean more to some than others, but, it’s fair to say that Sony has a winner on its hands for both entry level shooters all the way up to seasoned professionals.  Beyond the sensor’s increased low-light capability is a huge increase in noise reduction and the forethought of keeping the flange depth (in relation to the sensor) accurate and in-tune for use with most professional motion 35mm Cine Lenses.  Great features like over crank and under crank are present (1fps-60fps), and the camera features the same amazing 3.5″ viewfinder as the EX1R.  Even with this great viewfinder, it’s advisable to use an on-board monitor since the depth of field is shallower than the EX series and focus will be much more critical.  A good monitor with focus assist is key if not pulling tape on each shot. Photo: F3 camera body with PL mount adapter. I noticed online via various forums, blogs, etc., a lot of confusion about the mount on the F3.  The F3 features a removable PL mount but the camera has its own F3 mount as well.  Many people have asked why there is a zoom rocker on a camera that comes with a PL mount.  The zoom control is specifically for the F3 mount on the body which, in the near future, will be able to control S35mm F3 mount zoom lenses which Sony has plans to bring to market in the near future.  These zooms are the 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 (manual focus and zoom), 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 (auto), and the 17-50mm f/2.8 (auto). These lenses are not due until the end of 2011 and price is TBD.  This is still very encouraging and something that cannot currently be found in the DSLR arena.  S35mm zoom lenses, even in a new F3 mount, are a solution that opens up the use of smaller crews and less external components (microforce, etc.).  Sony has the ability to make lenses like this due to their acquisition of Konica / Minolta.  Outside of the F3 mount the camera comes with a PL mount.  It’s not a dummy mount in that it has the ability to transmit Arri Lens Data and Cooke/i data to the camera body.  These data pins are located in the 12 and 3 o’clock positions inside the PL mount. This metadata is passed onto the SxS cards during recording so you have the ability in post to review lens information (think Canon EXIF data with Aperture but with motion pictures).  Sony also has an F3K bundle which features three of its own PL lenses (35mm, 50mm & 85mm) all f/2.0 with 95mm filter diameters.  I think this is a very clever choice to have a bundle with these primes because they are fast, consistent and can be purchased for a lot less than most PL mount cine glass.  Canon and Nikon users are not left out as Nikon (G and DX will all work) and Canon FD lens adapter to F3 mount are available from MTF Services.  Birger Engineering also has plans to release a Canon EF mount with full protocol control.  I think most users will be looking at Zeiss CP.2 PL lenses as an affordable solution for owning, and lens renters will be looking at Cooke S4, Arri and Zeiss PL mount lenses to take full advantage of the amazing sensor on the camera. Photo: F3 with PL mount. Notice the data pins at the 12 and 3 position in the mount. The Sony F3 uses SxS cards just like the rest of the Sony PMW series of cameras.  The camera records MPEG-2 Long GOP which is also used by the rest of the XDCAM HD cameras in Sony’s professional line.  The bit rate is selectable between the 35 Mb/s @ 1920 x 1080 or 1280 x 720 in HQ mode or 1440 x 1080 if using 25 Mb/s SP mode at all the standard frame rates we are accustomed to with Sony’s CineAlta line of cameras (1fps – 60fps).  This was smart on Sony’s part as it allows you to inter-cut with other Sony professional cameras in the line if needed. The camera features two SxS slots which can hold up to two 64GB SxS-1A cards for a total of 200 minutes of continuous recording time without having to offload (well beyond DSLR capabilities) A great feature of the F3, which also has some lack of clarity on the web, is its ability to output Dual Link 3G SDI 10bit 4:2:2 and RBG.  This is an optional feature available in April via a software unlock (price TBD), and it will allow you to use several different recording options like a CineDeck, HDCAM SRW5500/2, Codex, Astro HR-7502, S.Two, direct to AJA Kona 3G (ideally with CineForm DDR), etc.  You can also use a NanoFlash or a KiPro Mini if you just want to bypass the SxS or as a secondary or primary (with SxS as a backup). With 3D being popular in the past few years, Sony has wisely added a 3D system link option that will allow you to lock-up timecode, genlock and other controls with a single cable — simplifying the process.  This is really smart because it allows you to use simple side-by-side 3D rigs without the need for external devices, etc.  3D focus, zoom, iris can all be done with a Preston HU3 and 2 x MDR-2 units with 6 motors via 3D tweak in the Preston hand unit. When Sony puts out their own S35 Zoom lens with built in servos this process will be even easier as you can use a Varizoom and other simple electronic controls for FI+Z.  It’s also important in that the F3 has an 8pin remote terminal so you can use standard remote units like the RMB150 controller.  I mention this with 3D as it is possible to use one remote to control two cameras with an 8pin adapter cable. The 3D link option will be available in April and price is TBD. Overall, the Sony F3 is destined to become one of the most talked about and popular cameras of 2011.  With the Panasonic AF100 and the Sony F3, it is safe to say a shift to large sensor cameras by manufacturers is a priority.  Sony and Panasonic have been paying attention and both reacted with two quality products that directly address a number of features and requests that we have all had with DSLRs.  Ergonomics, proper audio (XLR connections with monitoring), proper waveform/vector, recording length, codecs, etc., have all been addressed affordably.  The camera comes with a PL adapter, Stereo Mic, Windscreen, IR remote, Shoulder strap (not sure why), manual, CD-ROM with drivers and digital manual and warranty.  The F3K comes with the same supplied accessories with the addition of the PL lens kit featuring a 35mm, 50mm and 85mm lenses. The camera does not come with batteries or a charger.  Luckily, it uses the Sony BP series of batteries so if you already have an EX1 or EX3, you’ll be all set.  These batteries and charger will be sold and rented at Rule along with the Sony PMW-F3 camera.   We’ll be hosting a Learning Lab for the F3 on Wed, Jan 19th 2011 at Rule Boston Camera. Mike Sutton, Senior Account Manager Twitter: @MNS1974

Posted on

Arri Alexa Workshop

Just came from today’s Learning Lab on the new Arri Alexa camera and I’m practically salivating!
The presentation was done by Arri technical sales representative Guenter Noesner who wowed us with the elegant design and seemingly perfect mechanics of the much anticipated Alexa.
I was most impressed with how modular and adaptable the camera is.  Arri designed the camera to grow and adapt with time and the changing technological trends.  The Alexa currently records to Sony SXS cards but can be updated to stay current with the fastest recording media.  The robust metal shell of the camera is separated into plates that can be replaced or upgraded. You break a BNC connector on set? No worries! The BNC connectors can be switched out and repaired right on location!
The Alexa boots up in no time and has a customized ventilation system that keeps the camera quiet while recording.  If the camera starts to get loud over time the fan can be replaced easily without having to send the whole unit out for repair.  The Alexa menu system is intuitive and easy to navigate.  I toggled through the camera changing  ASA, Shutter, Frame rates – all by the touch of a button or the turn of a dial.
If you haven’t had a chance to play around with the Alexa visit the Arri website and check out the Alexa simulator, it’s a great way to familiarize yourself with the camera menu – http://www.arridigital.com/technical/simulator
Can’t wait to see all the amazing footage our clients will be shooting with the new Alexa.  Don’t wait another day to get out their and get shooting!

Evelyn Seijido, Rental Agent
Up close with the Alexa

Posted on

The First Look at the Panasonic AG AF100…

Jan Crittenden-Livingston brought the working prototype of the AF100 to Rule yesterday! The first impression — it has a rather light body (2.5lbs), although it looks “stocky”. The handle can be removed and the right side grip can be removed, too, leaving a pretty simple cube. It came with a PL adaptor for Zeiss cine lens, rod attachment and Vocas mattebox. Quite a small package. The camera is easy to set and most menus will be familiar to Panasonic camera users. You have to get used to the lack of rocker switch for zoom on the grip and Start/Stop recording button being on the body.  It has a very nice camera picture, although Jan asked us not to judge it – it is a prototype. Perfect choice for P+S Technik DOF Adapter user? Possibly yes. Zbigniew Twarog, Chief Engineer

Posted on

The First Forum Shoot

In past posts, I mentioned that this room at Harvard’s School of Public Health, is interesting because of its dual purpose. Well, on Friday we broke in the production part of the room. Here is the techno-geeky breakdown of the shoot: The goal was redundancy to prevent failure. Four BRC-H700 Cameras mounted on ceiling lifts that lower them down to eye level when needed. Each fed HDSDI into an AnyCast switcher. Two more sources from an EX3 stationed in the room to provide a human operator better equipped to grab audience questions, and a PC running a PowerPoint. The PC was converted through an Extron USP 507 to HDSDI and fed not only to the Anycast but also to two 40″ LCD screens in the room for audience viewing. Audio in from four wired lav mics in the room and one wireless hand held into a Shure mixer for processing then to the Anycast to combine with the video. Also 8 Clock Audio ceiling mics through a Nexia DSP to the AnyCast for audience questions. Music in from an iPod to open the show rounded out the audio scheme. Recording was done on six different devices. Two KiPros each taking a program feed from the AnyCast. Three camera backups to HVR-1500s, so that everything could be fixed in post. There is also an audio recording done to a Marantz MP3 recorder. This file was emailed directly after the event to have a transcript made. In addition to all of this, the unit that we are using to do a live encode for the web does its own recording, a Digital Rapids StreamZ HD. There is a future technology coming to the location as well. Using VYVX, we will be able to transmit full-quality HD to any network in the world. This system has a lot of complexity stuffed into a small space, but it all works very well. I look forward to seeing many more of these events in the future. Ian Tosh, Director of Engineering Services

Posted on

Production Outfitters: New G-Drives!

New to Productions Outfitters are the G-Technology G-Drives!  These light and portable drives come in a range of storage sizes and include a sleek silver design.  They are naturally rugged and  capable of faster transfer speeds and a range of connectivity. The G-drive mini has some added bonuses including 2 firewire 800 ports and no need for AC power.  You can just plug it right into your computer via the firewire cable.  We have them available right next to rentals, so if the need should arise you can pick one up right away! Gen Andrews, Production Outfitters Store

Posted on

Recent Steadicam Workshop with Zephyr & Scout

At the recent Columbus Day Weekend Steadicam Workshop with Peter Abraham, I was intrigued by a couple of things.  First off, the people that I spent those two days with were AWESOME.  You literally walk away feeling like you are best friends (check out the photos at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Rule-Boston-Camera/46957103796?ref=ts). Next to that, I got to use the new Steadicam Scout for the first time, which will be the replacement for the Flyer eventually.  The Scout is the first one in the country to be used in the workshop, so it was great getting a firsthand look at it, and seeing the differences and changes that so many people are going to want if they decide to update their Steadicam.  First off, instead of only having the ability to rig weights at both ends of the monitor, there is a screw-in spot in the middle, behind the monitor.  This gives you some added weight, and works well to balance out the 24 lb. capacity if you go up that high on top.  You can also slide the monitor backwards and forwards, which also works to balance out the weight.  Speaking of the monitor, it’s a new model, one not seen yet, and for being standard definition as well as glare proof, I was really pleased with the image and would buy it that way easily. Many people have asked me my preference- Scout or Zephyr.  Well, after using both, they are different tools.  The Zephyr is definitely a bit heavier, but also is a nice feel, and a bit more robust if you’re using something like the Sony PMW-320, which is what we had on it.  The Scout is a nice middle range.  Heavier than the Pilot, lighter than the Zephyr.  The Pilot vest is also being redone, and there is a kit available to update yours if you want to.  The current Pilot vest is mostly Velcro and if you’ve ever tried to get it off while shooting- well don’t.  It’s like popping the packaging bubbles that your camera comes wrapped in.  Loud. The new kit gives you clips, etc., to make it a little more like the Zephyr and Scout vests. And last, here are some tips from Peter Abraham himself (who by the way, shot Notorious B.I.G.’s first music video, and if you haven’t appreciated slight differences in Steadicam operators’ work, you will after watching this video). Sand- Get a can of air and spray the Steadicam every so often to blow off the gimbal.  You won’t be getting sand out easily if you let it build up.  If you’re walking on sand and don’t want to kill your ankles, get metal screening from Home Depot or Lowes, and lay it down on the sand for support. Shooting with DSLR- get a thin foam sheet from any fabric store, cut a small rectangle and screw in the camera to the Steadicam plate through that.  You won’t wear down the bottom of the camera, or scratch your Steadicam plate, and it won’t move around on you or come loose. Self Adhesive Velcro- This stuff is magic.  Keep your ends on your vest tied down with it, use it to attach a water cover, keep a roll with you at all times. Michelle Brooks, Inside Sales Representative